Cost of Living in France
The cost of living in France is a popular topic of conversation amongst British expats. Exact amounts are remembered and receipts are kept as proof - no expat dinner party is complete without a product price comparison discussion, either in terms of the various French supermarkets in relation to the UK and the services you need for your everyday life.
Whether you believe the cost of living in France to be higher than that in the UK very much depends on your circumstances. If, for instance, you run two cars, arrived with a sparse wardrobe have a large house to renovate in France, you may think that life is extortionate, whereas if you live in a town, only need to put your own stamp on your new home and have plenty of shoes, life is cheap!
Here's why -
Clothes are ExpensiveBefore the likes of Tesco and Primark joined the British high street clothing retailers this may not have been the case, but now they have, it is hard to remember paying high prices for every day basics. In France, there is not the equivalent of the British high street, although you do see the same brand names in many towns and cities. You can buy cheaper clothing in supermarkets, but they are not very well styled or well cut, so are perhaps best avoided if you are concerned with your appearance.
Many expats choose to buy their clothes on trips back to UK, or buy clothes online. If you do prefer to buy clothes in France, be prepared that the same quality is vastly more expensive (a plain t-shirt is around €40) and the styles available may not suit your taste.
BillsUtilities in France are comparable to the UK, although the key difference is that there does not seem to be the same level of competition for your custom. This means that there are not the same competitive deals in France that we are used to seeing in the UK, where the ease of transferring your provider to a better deal is commonplace. This does seem to be changing slowly in France, so the more modern services of broadband and mobile phones are more competitive than gas and electricity.
ShoppingMuch like the UK, the cost of your shopping depends on where and when you shop. If you are only prepared to do a weekly supermarket shop, you will probably think that the prices are higher than in the UK. This is largely to do with the fact that 'buy one, get one free' and 'three for two' type offers are not yet popular here. There are occasionally 10% extra type deals, but there are nowhere near the same levels of bargains to be had in French supermarkets.
If you make the most of the wonderful local products available and shop at local markets, you can enjoy a wonderful diet at a lower cost that food shopping in the UK. By embracing the French way of cooking and eating, you can buy seasonal, local produce. There is no point moving to France and then paying over the odds for exported British food.
DIY goods are very varied in price - the price of paint and flat pack furniture, for example, is crazy expensive compared to the UK, whereas random items such as taps are far cheaper.
ServicesThis topic really gets the dinner parties heated up. Although France is considered a high taxation country, if you seek good professional advice and utilise the tax situation available for your circumstances, France can actually prove to be the same if not lower than the UK in terms of tax.
Services such as health care and schooling can be more expensive than the UK, although they are widely considered superior in quality. French healthcare is available to all expats in possession of the relevant forms, which you are entitled to depending on your tax and employment situation. State schools in France are generally of a very good standard, although inner city schools face many of the same issues as those in the UK. Be aware that your school age children are required to have their own school insurance policy.